Mark Bao had his first encounter with entrepreneurship in the fifth grade. He used Visual Basic 6.0 to write a simple computer application that managed his homework assignments and helped him write school papers. Then he copied the program onto floppy discs and sold them to his friends.
His first start-up came in his first year of high school. Debateware.com was an event management system for debate organizations. Eventually, Mark and his business partner sold it to the largest debate organization in the United States.
Today Mark is a 17-year-old high school senior and he has already launched 11 web-based companies (and sold three of them) along with three non-profit foundations. Some of his projects include TickrTalk, the Ramamia Foundation, Classleaf, and Avecora – a technology network launching sometime in 2013.
The following is a short excerpt from 50 Interviews: Young Entrepreneurs (Volume 1). Grab your free chapter at the bottom of this page.
Q: You’ve created 11 web-based businesses and you’ve sold three of them. What is it like to sell one of your companies?
A: The buyers mostly just come to us. They recognize our company, make an offer and, in some cases, we go ahead with it. The problem with a lot of start-ups is that they try to go for an acquisition [from the onset] and they don’t focus as much on the money-making part of it. That’s why most of my companies focus on making money, not hoping for an acquisition.
Part of my struggle is that I want to see where they’re going with the business and, in most cases, I don’t have control over that. Like with a baby, I just want to make sure that it’s going to have a good future that will promote the ideas I started the company with.
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
We’re always working on the non-profits as well. My preliminary life goal right now is to donate 80% to humanitarian aid and research. Since my life goal for my career is to earn $10 billion, that would be $8 billion. Another 10% will go to The Mark Bao Foundation, where we manage research grants and lobby for better funding for NASA and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Another 5% will go to funding start-ups, helping them grow.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: I just want people to create companies that are awesome, create value, and give back to the community as a whole. I really hope they do.
This is an abridged version from Mark’s interview in our latest project, 50 Interviews: Young Entrepreneurs. Mark was absolutely delightful to talk to! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started my conversation with the entrepreneur who specializes in computer programming. (Another one of Mark’s life goals is to make people smile more often.) I smiled through the entire interview .
Mark Bao’s Top Quotes
“I just try to think of myself as an entrepreneur who happens to be a teen.”
“I hope my companies will help create value and make people happier in the long run. That’s what I’m in it for.”
Impressed by What Mark’s Done Being So Young?
Check out this Colorado kid who made $135K in one summer mowing lawns:
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Photo by: DemoCamp Boston